DARPA’s Tactical Undersea Network Architecture (TUNA) program completed its initial phase, successfully developing concepts and technologies aimed at restoring connectivity for U.S. forces when traditional tactical networks are knocked offline or otherwise unavailable. The program now enters the next phase, which calls for the demonstration of a prototype of the system at sea.
TUNA seeks to develop and demonstrate novel, optical-fiber-based technology options and designs to temporarily restore radio frequency (RF) tactical data networks in a contested environment via an undersea optical fiber backbone. The concept involves deploying RF network node buoys—dropped from aircraft or ships, for example—that would be connected via thin underwater fiber-optic cables. The very-small-diameter fiber-optic cables being developed are designed to last 30 days in the rough ocean environment—long enough to provide essential connectivity until primary methods of communications are restored.
Supplying power to floating buoy nodes on the open sea presents a particular challenge. During the first phase of the program, the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab (APL) developed a unique concept called the Wave Energy Buoy that Self-deploys (WEBS), which generates electricity from wave movement. The WEBS system is designed to fit into a cylinder that could be deployed from a ship or aircraft.
Excerpt from Networks of the Sea Enter Next Stage, DARPA website, Jan. 5, 2017
The objective of the POSYDON program is to develop an undersea system that provides omnipresent, robust positioning. DARPA envisions that the POSYDON program will distribute a small number of acoustic sources, analogous to GPS satellites, around an ocean basin. By measuring the absolute range to multiple source signals, an undersea platform can obtain continuous, accurate positioning without surfacing for a GPS fix.
DAPRA’s Hydra Program from Federal Business Opportunities
The Hydra program will develop and demonstrate an unmanned undersea system, providing a novel delivery mechanism for insertion of unmanned air and underwater vehicles into operational environments. Situated underwater, Hydra will use modular payloads within a standardized enclosure to enable scalable, cost-effective deployment of rapid response assets and will integrate existing and emerging technologies in new ways to create an alternate means of delivering a variety of payloads close to the point of use. The Hydra program seeks to develop and demonstrate initial examples of air and undersea payloads while leaving open the potential for accommodating additional payloads in the future.
The rising number of ungoverned states, piracy, and proliferation of sophisticated defenses severely stretches current resources and impacts the nation’s ability to conduct special operations and contingency missions. The Hydra program represents a cost effective way to add undersea capacity that can be tailored to support each mission. Hydra’s communications suite could allow synergistic function with manned platforms, thus increasing their effectiveness, or could allow remote control from over-the-horizon. Technologies are intended to be adaptable to multiple delivery options, including airborne, surface, and subsurface. The Hydra program will enable other new capabilities not currently performed from undersea.